Learning to run a Power Network Challenge: a Retrospective Analysis
Proceedings of the NeurIPS 2020 Competition and Demonstration Track, PMLR 133:112-132, 2021.
Power networks, responsible for transporting electricity across large geographical regions, are complex infrastructures on which modern life critically depend. Variations in demand and production profiles, with increasing renewable energy integration, as well as the high voltage network technology, constitute a real challenge for human operators when optimizing electricity transportation while avoiding blackouts. Motivated to investigate the potential of Artificial Intelligence methods in enabling adaptability in power network operation, we have designed a L2RPN challenge to encourage the development of reinforcement learning solutions to key problems present in the next-generation power networks. The NeurIPS 2020 competition was well received by the international community attracting over 300 participants worldwide. The main contribution of this challenge is our proposed comprehensive ’Grid2Op’ framework, and associated benchmark, which plays realistic sequential network operations scenarios. The Grid2Op framework, which is open-source and easily re-usable, allows users to define new environments with its companion GridAlive ecosystem. Grid2Op relies on existing non-linear physical power network simulators and let users create a series of perturbations and challenges that are representative of two important problems: a) the uncertainty resulting from the increased use of unpredictable renewable energy sources, and b) the robustness required with contingent line disconnections. In this paper, we give the highlights of the NeurIPS 2020 competition. We present the benchmark suite and analyse the winning solutions, including one super-human performance demonstration. We propose our organizational insights for a successful competition and conclude on open research avenues. Given the challenge success, we expect our work will foster research to create more sustainable solutions for power network operations.